The First Race

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They stomp at the gate,
already sweating,
lips pulled back,
keen for the start.
Eyes darting
left and right
at their competition,
they push forward
as the starter
checks his watch,
and then…
brrrinnggg…
they’re off!

Hearts pumping,
jostling for that
prime position…
There! an opening,
and one just in
from New York
darts for daylight,
pounds down the lane,
edging the one
in pink and green
who lost a shoe
at the eighth pole.

Slamming his
beer cooler
on the picnic table,
the victor exults
in winning
the first race
of the meet.
It’s 7:02 AM,
opening day
at Saratoga.

If you’ve never seen the 7:00 AM dash for prime picnic table turf at the Saratoga Race Course (which opens for its 147th meet today just north of my home), you’re missing a primal competition that rivals Saratoga’s Travers Stakes, the famed Summer Derby of American horse racing. And now, the great secret: In six decades on this earth, in this place, I’ve never once attended a day at the races. But I have a vivid imagination.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

501I didn’t really feel it, that first time headed south on I-95 out of Fredericksburg. Pretty quickly you get distracted by the big rigs and Jersey plates flying by. And how the sun starts out blasting your left eye, but eventually becomes a blast furnace on your left thigh, by the time you reach Fayetteville.

Once you get past the relentless chain of Pedro and the hookers’ come-ons to spend your pesos South of the Border, and you take the exit east onto 501 toward Marion and Conway, the pace slows and your heartbeats get pinned to the thup-thup of tires crossing the tar strips on the road toward The Strand.

The first time we crested that rise by the ash pond and saw the hazy blue Atlantic and the not-so-distant-now sparkling spires looking like some seaside Oz, traffic got gummed to a crawl. But the pulse in the car pumped back up to sixty-five again when the little ones started bouncing in the back seat, singing Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.

I felt that.

Over at dVerse Poets Pub, my friend Shanyn Silinski is looking for work that somehow captures the rhythms of getting from here to there. Didn’t expect to be so wordy, my poems have been more commuters than world travelers these days, but this prose poem is what I felt all those years ago on our first trip to Myrtle Beach.

Heat Wave

 

Record High Temperature

Record High Temperature (Photo credit: NickWarzy)

All day, for six straight steaming sun-ups
and a half-dozen retina-searing sundowns,
the people who bemoaned their frigid snowy winter
wipe their wet cheeks over the heat this July week.
Their faces shine in the dawn light these mornings,
when 9s are hung in the wide-screen, surround-sound
public square and the talking hairdo town crier
warns of the approach of certain writhing death
for those who do not sufficiently hydrate.
My dog knows this.

I would hear the bump-whir of the air conditioning
kicking in again, but the hi-def Hark the Herald of doom
puts on her drama mask and serious tone megaphone
to relate how tempers sparked in street-length saunas
have claimed four lives overnight. Janus-like,
she flips her mien, and then her mane, smiles wide
and tells me we’re going to see how the penguins
at the Sea-quarium handle this heat wave.
But first these words…